Posted by: nestaquin | November 12, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008 Australian Player Review

krezja

In the years that follow, Australia’s 2008 tour of India will be remembered as a series where the better team deservedly won.

Jason Krezja’s 12 wicket haul on debut will also be undoubtedly remembered, however, history may not recall that things began badly for the tourists and never really improved during the seven week cricketing sojourn.

Before a ball was bowled Cricket Australia had continued the curious suspension of Andrew Symonds and the team had been dealt the cruel blow of watching their number one spinner Bryce McGain depart back to Melbourne for serious shoulder surgery.

This turn of events set the ball rolling for a panicked change in plans in relation to team balance and the decision to play only three frontline bowlers in each sub-continental Test was madness at worst and foolishness at best.

Few teams anywhere have won Test series with only three bowlers and Australia received the defeat they deserved for thinking that they could win a tough away series with a diminished attack. Stacking the batting may avoid the occasional defeat but it will never win a series on flat wickets where 20 wickets is the key to victory.

Although India were far and away the better unit throughout the series, the Australian administrators, selectors, coaches, tacticians and motivators deserve a far more harsh assessment than the players who, when all is said and done, tried valiantly with little success to show for their efforts from the opening morning in Bengaluru to the final afternoon in Nagpur.

Matthew Hayden 234 runs @ 33.42

The veteran opener started the series wretchedly falling twice in consecutive first innings to Zaheer Khan for third ball ducks. However, the nadir of his tour occurred on the fourth afternoon in Mohali when plush with delusions of valour, vanity and victory he completely embarrassed himself by vexatiously slogging his way to a predictable and ignominious failure.

Errors in judgement are like fire, they can either serve you or burn you and to Hayden’s credit he applied himself in his next turn at the crease. His innings of 83 at Delhi, compiled over four hours, was a solid workmanlike effort that was influential in Australia’s pursuit of India’s massive 613/7.

In Australia, less than a year ago, against essentially the same opposition, Hayden scored three centuries in as many outings and in comparison, his return of two half centuries this tour was a poor showing.

Simon Katich349 runs @ 49.85 & 1 wicket @ 73.00

One of the few Australians to leave India with his reputation enhanced. When the tour started it was still uncertain if Phil Jaques or Katich would join Hayden at the top of the order but by tour’s end Katich had sewn up the opening slot for the foreseeable future.

He worked hard throughout, got a start in every innings and played his best when obdurate.

He produced important partnerships in every Test to try and resurrect his team and was under bowled by his skipper especially when you consider that Australia played all four Tests with only three specialist bowlers.

Ricky Ponting266 runs @ 38.00

Started magnificently with a breakthrough hundred on Indian soil in Bangaluru and then rapidly declined throughout the Test series to the point where his decision making, with the bat or his players, was confusing and counterproductive.

Michael Hussey394 runs @ 56.28

Dependable and solid, Hussey produced at least a half century in every match and without him holding the middle order together Australia would have lost the series well before the final day in Nagpur.

Michael Clarke251 runs @ 35.85 & 2 wickets @ 128.00

Had a mixed second tour of India where he played a few decent innings, including his lucky century in Delhi, but failed when his team needed him most. Never dominated the bowling for a lengthy period and his knack for getting dismissed prior to a break is beginning to become a concern.

Shane Watson170 runs @ 24.28 & 10 wickets @ 32.10

In his first full Test series Watson bowled well at times and batted well at others but never combined the two aspects of his game into a coherent whole. He made meaningful contributions in most matches notably displaying his grit with the bat in Mohali and cleaning up the Indian second innings with dangerous swing bowling in Nagpur.

With Andrew Symonds returning after his bizarre suspension Watson will need to do more if he is to keep his spot for the remainder of the summer.

Brad Haddin163 runs @ 27.16

Never scored a half century and his one innings of substance proved inconsequential when cleaned bowled in the first over of the final day at Mohali by Zaheer Khan.

Kept soundly yet allowed the Australian record number of byes in Bangaluru and will no doubt be under pressure throughout the summer from some of the younger, more agile keeper/batsmen performing in Shield cricket.

Cameron White146 runs @ 29.20 & 5 wickets @ 68.40

His selection when viewed with the clarity of hindsight has proved a poor choice. He never dominated with bat and while useful at times with the ball he failed to take wickets with any regularity. A specialist bowler would have been a better punt in the circumstances.

Brett Lee 8 wickets @ 61.62

An average of a wicket an innings tells the story of Lee’s tour. He wasted the new ball with some wild opening spells, rarely troubled the batsmen with pace and failed to swing the ball throughout.

A dismal failure from the man chosen to lead the attack with his most notable performance being the adolescent tantrum he threw when not given a bowl before lunch on the fourth day at Mohali.

Mitchell Johnson13 wickets @ 40.07

Mitch took the most wickets and bowled the most overs on tour and was the only paceman to occasionally give the Indian batsmen a fright. He was rarely helped by his skipper’s field placement and defensive plans, regularly being asked to be the team’s pony working into the wind and bowling a line outside off-stump with a seven-two field.

Back on Australian soil with a properly balanced team Johnson will be used once again as a strike bowler, which is in my opinion, a far more useful strategy to harness his unique abilities.

Stuart Clark2 wickets @ 80.50

Injured during the first Test and dropped for the last, Big Stu played in two matches for two draws. His bowling was miserly but with little movement off the seam few wicket taking opportunities presented.

Peter Siddle4 wickets @ 44.00

He bowled his heart out at Mohali in his debut Test as replacement for Stuart Clark. Showed enough to warrant another match in more favourable conditions, however, the opportunities for fast bowlers are tight and the competition fierce and it conceivable that he may not get another opportunity for many years to come.

Jason Krezja12 wickets @ 29.83

Forgive me for wondering what might have been if Jason played more than the last Test of the series where he was Man of the Match and equalled the Australian record for most wickets in an innings on debut.

The selectors erred when picking White instead of Krezja in Bangaluru and I’m confident that if the young off-spinner had played more the series would have been closer throughout.

Krezja showed in his first session of Test cricket that he has the required temperament for the highest level coming back to take two important wickets before lunch after Sehwag attempted to end his career just as it was beginning with a furious and calculated assault.

Ponting then tested his physical and psychological fitness bowling him in long thirsty spells and the Tasmanian migrant handled the enormous task with aplomb. He should be in the team to face New Zealand in a week but in these days of selectorial conservatism and confusing captaincy common sense cannot be taken for granted.

Ahead at 99.94: Rajesh Kanaan looks boldly into the future and The Tooting Trumpet assesses England’s chances against a confident and in-form India.

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Responses

  1. For the last maybe 15-20 years the Australian selectors have been in the enviable position of having to do very little when selecting a team. Now the selectors have a different role. I firmly believe that there are the players in Australia who are good enough to still keep us at or very near the top of the tree. But this requires some astute selections, the type that picked a green Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath all those years ago. Picking Krejza was one great example. Whether this selection bears fruit in the long term or not that’s the kind of thinking that’s required.

  2. You are right Pete. The selectors are going to have to earn their salary by being creative and doing the research required to unearth players with world class potential. They are out there and they are playing they just need recognition and a fair go.

  3. And possibly a proper coach to guide the youngsters and not a man-manager such as Nielsen / Buchanan.

  4. I confess, predicting which coach will be successful is more art than logic. You have the great ex-players who have been successful (Bob Simpson) and have failed (Miandad). The process and science guys have a Chappello for a Buchanan. The unobtrusive guys have a Wright for a Nielsen (admittedly, the jury’s still out on him).

    I really don’t have a point, jsut saying that finding a “proper coach” is not easy. Then again, if Warnie can be bothered, he seems like a no-brainer. I don’t think he’ll play again, but his talents surely make him a prize coaching catch.

  5. Australia might be approaching something of an English period with a lot of players who might be Test class, but probably aren’t. Sifting through them (and avoiding errors like White and Watson ahead of Krejza) won’t be easy. That the Shield didn’t really show Hussey as the player he is makes it even more complicated.

  6. Shane Warne has made his views on team coaches pretty clear. The old cliche goes the only coach you need is the one with wheels that gets you to the ground. He believes coaches are unnecessary and the team captain is most important. If players need extra coaching than they do on a private level that as required. Type ’shane warne coaches’ in Google and you’ll get a feel for his contempt for the role.

    Also a busy gent like him does not want to be toodling around all parts of the world doing a job he has contempt for, when he could be playing IPL, poker, beach cricket, and whatever other irons he has in the fire. He is a spin bowling consultant for Australia, hopefully helping in unearthing future talent

  7. While Gambhir drew a comment on his unprofessional act in Delhi, Watson, Katich and especially Johnson have got away with nesta stuidously avoiding comments on their poor behaviour.
    I guess in Austalia, you are criminal only if you are caught. Otherwise, you would be a celebrity if you managed to get away with despicable acts.
    Yes, generalising but I dont know how much more provocation I need to indulge in to get a sane response out of Oz supporters on the behaviour of their cricketers. Provoking, shamelessly gloating that “Gambhir will hopefully miss the Nagpur test now”, which clearly shows that they probably planned it in the dressing room – which means, they deliberately denied the Nagpur public the pleasure of watching an in-form Gambhir – is this not violation of the spirit of cricket?

    Shamefuly, even Nesta would not say a word – I guess this is hard-but-fair. God save Australia!

  8. Like Warne, I think head coaches of international teams are over-rated.

    To be honest, I’m not certain what they do exactly but you can bet a drivers license is a prerequisite for employment at Cricket Australia.

    Every player already has a mentor they trust to advise them on technique and most teams have a specialist fielding, batting and bowling coach.

    With all the actual coaching done by others there isn’t much left to advise on except tactics.

    From the very beginning of Nielsen’s appointment for the World T20 Cup in South Africa, Australia have played conservatively to the point where their entire mindset has become about not losing, where it used to be about only winning.

    I’ve long suspected that Nielsen is more corporate than cricketer and his appointment was about process rather than the specific needs of the team.

    Buchanan is a master tactician and Ponting benefited enormously from his influence and obsessive reductionism.

    However without a genius beside him Ricky looks less than capable of handling strategy in critical situations.

    It would be nigh on impossible for Ponting to admit his shortcomings. Therefore there are only two simple solutions.

    1. Sack him with someone who has the nuggets and tactical nous to lead Australia.

    2. Get him and Nielsen help less eccentric than Greg Chappell.

  9. I’m not sure what Warne really thinks about coaches. He got Darren Berry to be “assistant coach” of Rajasthan. Seemed kind of like a coach to me.

  10. For me the defining images of this series are how ‘ordinary’ Australia looked at times, especially during the many 100+ Indian partnerships.

    Even during the 2001 series or 2003-04 and earlier this year in Australia, India had some big partnerships, but Australia never looked so run-of-the-mill to me, like they did in this series.Some how the intensity was vastly reduced. Even the aggression from Katich and Watson (when bowling), looked a bit ‘contrived’ to me.The only exception was Mitch doing the verbals when VVS was batting.

    The retirement of players who could ‘walk the talk’ is probably one of the reasons for this loss of intensity.

    Australian cricket needs a couple of champion performers again – Ponting looked so lonely at times, that against all my patriotic instincts, I wanted a wicket to fall, just to see him pepped up and ruffle the bowlers’ head :-)

    India looked the better side, but were not at their best infact.

    Australia looked the lesser of the sides, but I think they tried their best to do their 100%.

    It could be the Indian conditions.But unless Australia become totally ruthless against NZ and SA, this lack of intensity could happen to them any where in the world.

    Peter Siddle caught my eye.I am sure he will be a handful at the pacier pitches in Australia.

    Brett Lee – I was surprised at how much pace he lost.In almost every test, Mitch was faster than Lee.If Ponting wants his team to be ruthless again, it is imperative that Lee bowls at his full pace.

    The coaches – Remarkable how in all these discussions all over the Internet, no one mentioned the role of Gary Kirsten.I think Gangulty said in some interview 3 days back that Kirsten is like a sterner John Wright.

    After Guru Greg left and before Kirsten came in, India played cricket for a few months without an official coach. And they didn’t do too badly. I think Australia could get rid of Nielsen, and let the Captain and the senior players decide what kind of coach they want.

    I want to end with Ponting again :-)

    Some time in 2007, I was flipping channels and found Ponting being interviewed on one of the myriad Indian sports channels.

    Interviewer: If you could pick an era in the history of Australian cricket, and offered to be part of that team, which era would you pick?

    There was a commercial break before Ponting could answer, and I was thinking: well, its a no brainer..Ponting would obviously say the Invincibles era.

    The show came back and Ponting’s answer was: the future !

    I don’t remember the exact words but he said something to the effect of how Australian cricket has kept on improving its standards in every era, and therefore the future is going to be much better than the current (Implying that his era is better than his predecessors’).

    Say what you will about the Aussie administrators, you have to admire a system that makes players think like this.

    Not just India, even South Africa and England want to be like Australia in terms of talent and commitment of players.

    As Sambit Bal put it, in this series we have seen India play more like Australia and Australia forgetting their script.

    Lets hope the Kiwis give Oz a good fight as they always do.

  11. Ignoring the scoreline for a moment, the Aussies competed well in the series. But for the capitualtion in Mohali, they had chances in all the other 3 games.

    They missed Roy did’nt they. I did like Watson and he could be a huge factor it the future. Once a rejuvenated Roy is back in the fold, I am in favor of retaining Watson at the expense of White.

    The thing to look out for is Lee’s drop in pace – Is it a temporary loss of rythm or something else? Katich, Roy, Clark and Spinner X makes for a decent spin attack. Kreja might be spinner X. I do think he got so many wickets because the Indians were really going after him. Definetly worth another shot though.

    Will the Aussies blood Marsh against the Kiwis? Hayden is not growing any younger and Phil J might not be the answer. Btw is Katich as opener a stop gap or a long term pick?


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